Job 38: 1-17
MARK 10: 35-45

October 20, 2018

When I hear the word cafeteria … I think about junior high school.

Now, I am not sure why those two words get so closely associated in my brain but they do and that is perhaps more a reflection of me rather than of any careful analysis but such is the fun of word association amongst people.

In our one of our four weekly Bible Studies this past week … you do know that we have four Bible studies that you can participate in every since week … two of them are online so you can join in wherever you are in the world including our Wednesday Bible evening Bible study; a BIBLE STUDY that for the past two years has had a class member from North Carolina who sits with the class from her home studying God’s Word and enjoying the friendship and fellowship for just about an hour choosing a St. Paul’s  Bible Study from amongst all the many choices the 21st Century world offers  including the newest episodes of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. She goes online using ZOOM to be with a church pseudo family almost 300 miles away for Bible Study.

Life’s choices that we each make.  Literally anyone in the world including each person here this morning or watching on Facebook in addition to that Wednesday evening study can pick choose a Tuesday Bible study that lasts less than a half hour accessible through your phones, your tablets, and your computers for their schedules.  From literally anywhere in God’s world where there is a wifi signal Bible study and fellowship with people who also choose Bible study over the world’s other options.  On Wednesday afternoons our lunch time option does require the ability to travel to this beautiful church but in just about an hour you can eat, feed on God’s Word, enjoy some superb company and now once a month even experience one of my soup creations.  On Thursdays at 11am I know that the ladies of Shepherd’s Farm would welcome you to our weekly study of God’s Word but you have to choose to drive there … an hour.

But, I already know that we each have choices … we are busy people … I still have the world’s next great book ready to reach millions if I ever sit down to write the first paragraph.   And, no I apparently wasn’t quick enough to call the general manager of the Buffalo Bills to offer my services as their newest quarterback after watching Josh Allen get hurt last week … if I had made that choice I might be in Indianapolis right now getting ready to step out on the field at 1pm for the Bills game versus the Colts because I know … I am sure … that if I had made that choice I could have been there today but I didn’t pick that option from all my choices last Sunday evening so the Bills team went in a different direction.

Bible studies, football career opportunities, lunch or late breakfast options, and even the clothes we wear are choices from life’s cafeteria line that you and I make all of the time. Which brings me back to junior high … Mill Middle School and the cafeteria.  Your life experiences may have been very similar … a line was formed, we picked up a tray, and the kids in line behind were rushing me because time was of the essence … choices were to be made and I can still see that nameless cafeteria lady waiting to take my money worn down by the antics of junior high school kids like me.  What looked tasty … there were some very clear never eat options offered to us … ?  What did I have money for?  What was destined for the trash?  And, would there be a jello war that day when those colored cubes would fly across the cafeteria hopefully not in my direction?

Zebedee’s kids certainly set themselves up to be bombarded by lime green, jiggly cherry, and orange orange jello cubes if they had been in a junior high cafeteria and their fellow disciples had been 13 and 14 year olds rather than being men who had spent day and night with the Son of God.  But the question asked or proposal made of Jesus that day surely could have been one offered up by immature teens yet it was those two grown boys, James and John who thought they had somehow had achieved or had been born into power.  A power beyond human reward.  These disciples … who just a few months earlier had been sweating in their father’s wooden fishing boat mending and preparing nets along with Zebedee and his hired hands getting ready to go fishing for the family’s business had rushed towards this man, Jesus, who specifically called them to join those other two fishermen, Simon and Andrew who had left their nets along the shore of the Sea of Galilee on a life changing journey because they just sensed there was something special about this Jesus.

This Jesus who declared “Come, follow me … I will make you fishers of men.”  This Jesus who after recruiting these four fishermen went into Capernaum’s synagogue and taught like no other teacher had taught before Him.  The Gospel of Mark tells us that the people were amazed at His teaching because He taught with authority. “What is this?  A New Teaching?”

Where were you … when you heard the call of Jesus?  What was your life busy with when you realized that the Son of God was calling you … specifically you … to join the life changing journey?  To follow Jesus as a clear concise choice amongst life’s all so many choices … Christian; person of faith; acknowledging God’s grace; and accepting God’s Salvation.   How did you hear “the new teaching?  The Good News that in its simplicity focused on love could not longer be denied in your mind … in your heart … from amongst all the pretty life choices, the popular life choices, the immature life options with immediate reward … where were you in life’s cafeteria line and are you still feeding on God’s Word?

Ah, making a choice does not necessarily meaning that we succumb to all the elements that make up that choice.  There were some food “things” put on my junior high plate in that cafeteria that I would always throw away lessening the health value of the overall meal.  But here in today’s Gospel lesson we are once again confronted with human arrogance versus Godly expectations …

You and I know … its our little secret … we can follow the world and we won’t get hit by lightening bolts.   Here we had James and John who actually spent their days walking with Jesus; we never are told about any vacation plans built into the Disciple job descriptions so they had seen all that the Son of God was capable of; they had heard His peace-filled words and His call to love all without prejudice but they somehow looked over at Peter, Andrew, Philip, Thaddeus, Bartholomew, Thomas, the other James, Matthew, Simon the Zealot, and Judas … and decided Zebedee’s boys were better than those other 10.

So much better … so much more worthy … they didn’t have to do anything and in fact that were ready and told the Son of God to do what they asked rather than asking what they could do for Jesus.  They claimed to be ready to sit in glory next to Jesus … the arrogance and lust for power … the choosing of themselves in life’s cafeteria line rather than realizing God’s plan … God’s call … God’s need was and is for those who believe to pick up each of our crosses … to choose to accept Jesus call to love all in a time when hating those whose politics is different than our own is the new “k”  To wrap our arms around each person even though we are told to fear those who are different than our mirror images.  To care for the widow .. the orphan … the poor rather than reducing their benefits so that those with wealth can enjoy their lives even more.

Job had suffered a lot … heck, Job had suffered as much as any human being could suffer and he finally had been worn down so much that he challenged God.  He really was saying enough … I deserve better but soon I will be gone.   It is so very easy … to question God … to attempt to make God fit our lives … to adjust God’s requirements for our preferred cafeteria line that we want to glide through and enjoy to ur satisfaction … but if God called out to you today as God called out to Job and said, “I will interrogate you and you will respond to me … “ would you change your choices?  Would you be prepared to answer … “Where were you when God laid the earth’s foundations?”   Dear friends, in all of our personal success, our personal intelligence, our … I know all I need to know approach to life that most of us have at varying moments …. “In your lifetime, have you commanded the morning and informed the dawn of its place?”

It’s easy … it’s so easy to fit in and to be about me because we like being about me.  We like making the choices in life that make us happy, have us feeling good, and allow us to avoid the choices or people we just don’t want to waste our time on.   There are incredibly interesting television series ready to be binge watched … in fact, I was having a discussion with a friend the other day day … in between that friend’s constant glancing at their Smartphone … in which we started adding up the time distractions, time controllers in our lives today … employers lessening vacation time expecting more required hours weekly … hundreds of television channels with thousands of choices on demand versus the old days of having to wait for our shows … games in our hands rather than having to set up the Monopoly or Parcheesi  boards from their boxes and finding a friend or family member to play with … more sports teams and leagues and fantasy sports that you can play alone … so many choices … so many cafeteria lines of life to stand in to insure I am satisfied …. My wishes are answered maybe not to sit next to Jesus but to fully enjoy this life regardless of God …

Oh wait God … Jesus … forever time; eternal life … God’s directions … James and John couldn’t sit next to Jesus could they?   Jesus … the Son of God … the Messiah … didn’t come to say get all the good stuff you can!  Get as wealthy and loaded up with your stuff while you can get it!  Push aside those who want you to help them …

Our Jesus … didn’t come to be served but rather to serve … our Jesus; the Son of God didn’t come to liberate us from obligation to love and help others our Jesus came to liberate us from sin and damnation while calling us to be “slave of all for the sake of God and Christ.”

Our God gave us the ability to take a good look at the cafeteria lines that the world offers to us but through God’s Word … God teaches us the choices God wants us to make not down the road … not pushed off to some distant death bed confession … God’s freedom for humanity leaves us with the choice knowing what the Creator expects fully aware of God’s truth.

So, I ask again … where were you when you heard the call of Jesus Christ in such a convincing manner that you said You believed?  Today, are you willing to once again tell our God, our Jesus … that you not your neighbor, not your family member next to you, but you … today, are you willing to choose God’s life directives as your personal choice for living out the Good News so that others can discover God too.

It’s your choice … we are all in life’s cafeteria line with so many incredible options that can please each of us … make your choice today because tomorrow may not give you the same options.


Watch a video of today’s worship service

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ